The Obamas Should Worship in the National Cathedral

President-elect Obama hasn’t been to church in three weeks, saying he doesn’t want to disrupt the service for others. Reagan … Continued

President-elect Obama hasn’t been to church in three weeks, saying he doesn’t want to disrupt the service for others. Reagan and Bush said the same thing, but Carter and Clinton attended church regularly. What’s your advice? Where should presidents worship?

1…..As a United Church of Christ clergyman, I’d love to see the Obama family in one of our many churches in the Washington area. But in a way no previous president has been, Obama will be a president for all the people; and being identified with any one denomination within one religion would be un-ecumenical.

2…..Yes, the Obama family is of one religion, and their being committed to Christian worship is a matter of their own integrity.

3…..Yes, the National Cathedral is of one Christian denomination, the Episcopal Church. But it is unique, in the Washington area and indeed in America, for functioning also as a national center of piety, with occasional rituals of America’s “civil religion.” Further, regular attendance at Sunday morning worship in the National Cathedral would “disrupt the service for others” less than in any other church.

4…..A congregation primarily African-American in membership would be “multiculturally” natural and politically unwise. Obama presents himself as an American, not an African-American (though he affirms his paternal African heritage with appropriate dignity). Membership in a black church would inappropriately underline the “African” in his African-American identity.

5…..Christianity is a corporate religion, existing fundamentally in the gathered “Body of Christ.” Wrongly, Reagan and Bush copped out on it, using the lame excuse of “disrupt[ing] the service for others.” Carter and Clinton were correct, weekly gathering for worship with their fellow-Christians.

6…..What about our president-elect and the other religions in increasingly pluralist America? Obama is an orthodox-open Christian. Orthodox: In his humble but explicit witness, he affirms Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Open: He is both respectful and expectant of other religions, believing that we all can learn to work together for the good of America and humanity.

Willis E. Elliott
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  • PalmSpringsGirl

    But are the Obamas going to church at all? From what I have read, they have not been to church since the election. Could be since he now is elected he doesn’t need a church membership to rally the votes?

  • Farnaz2

    Best bet is the Center for Inquiry. First stop should be the Washington office at which he coule read the Declaration.On November 14, 2006 the CFI opened its Office of Public Policy in Washington, DC and issued Declaration in Defense of Science and Secularism, which calls for public policy to be based on science rather than faith [19]. The next day the Washington Post ran an article about it entitled “Think Tank Will Promote Thinking.”

  • SpongJohnSquarePantheist

    Um… that might be a little difficult seeing as how the national cathedral is at the point of closing down: And is it really any surprise TEC is shrivelling faster than a plum in the desert, given its heretical, watered down, fake Christianity? You know, the same kind that the UCC, UUs, PCUSA and ELCA are peddling?

  • penman

    I suggest he either not attend church or find a way to keep it private. It’s the business of the man and his family, no one else.

  • lepidopteryx

    1…..2…..I agree completely. And, their choice of a house of worship should also be a matter of personal and familial spiritual integrity, not a matter of political posturing.3…..Why should they regularly attend an Episcopal church if the aren’t Episcopalian? That would make as much sense as a Jewish person attending mass every week.4…..So it’s okay for him to be black as long as he’s not too black, and doesn’t spend too much time with other black people? How big of you.5…..Some folks feel closer to the Divine alone than in a group. While I attend, praticipate in, and have even led sabat rituals, I feel closest to the Divine when I’m on my knees in my garden, sun beating down on my back, sweat pouring down my face, dirt under my fingernails. And while I attend a UU church on a regular basis, my back-yard vegetable plot is where most of my real worship takes place. 6…..Why does that mean that he should seek membership in a church of a denomination to whose theology he does not subscribe? Should he also regularly attend at a mosque, a synagogue, a Catholic church, a Buddhist temple, and a Ba’Hai center? Why can’t he and his family simply have Sunday morning as THEIR personal time of spiritual refreshment at the house of worship that best feeds THEIR souls? Why must attending church be a performance?

  • s_j_thaikattil

    Dear Rev ElliotHappy Thanksgiving Day!Soja John Thaikattil

  • hakafos44

    If they do not wish to worship at The National Cathedral, which is my congregation and a very mystical place, they can worship privately in the White House Chapel.

  • Ecoclimber

    The choice on the place of worship is not based on political expediency but where the future president identifies closely with his faith and where his faith is nourished and is increased. It’s ridiculous that these articles are even written since to my knowledge, it was never brought up before concerning other presidents. Should the previous president John F. Kennedy worship at a Protestant church to promote ecumenicism or because the majority of voters were Protestant. He has the right under the Freedom of Religion clause of the First Amendment to attend the House of Worship of his own choice. Such discussion is ridiculous.

  • erik108

    Some of the comments on Dr. Elliott’s piece have been rather harsh, but I fear deservedly so. For a churchman with his resume, he has written some surprisingly nonsensical things. First is his claim that for President-elect Obama “being identified with any one denomination within one religion would be un-ecumenical.” Presidential worship choice has little or nothing to do with ecumenism, the field of church-to-church diplomacy and relationship-building. Furthermore, ecumenical activity is conducted almost entirely by representatives of particular denominations or churches (the Roman Catholic Church and some others reject description as a “denomination.”) For example, I sit on the Ecumenical Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. If, like Abraham Lincoln, the President-elect chooses not to identify with any particular church, he may or may not have made a canny political choice, but it will have nothing to do with ecumenism.Second, Dr. Elliott advocates for Mr. Obama to worship at the National Cathedral on grounds that it is “uniquely a national center of piety.” This thinking is not so much nonsensical as superficial. Dr. Elliott brushes aside the fact that the Cathedral is an Episcopal church, using Episcopal liturgies and run by Episcopal clergy under the direction of an Episcopal Dean with the supervision of the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. The Cathedral does from time to time use the rubric “A House of Prayer for All People,” but its meaning is still a work in progress. It does not mean, and it has never meant, that the Cathedral is willing to efface its thoroughly Episcopal identity. As a former member of its program and ministry staff, I assert this with some confidence. The notion that the Cathedral is uniquely a place of national piety dishonors other sanctuaries of national import, such as the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Riverside Church, and various other churches, synagogues, masaajid, temples, gurudwaras etc.Third, finally, and most offensively, Dr. Elliott counsels Mr. Obama against joining a “black church.” Although not racist per se, this counsel is tantamount to pandering to racism. I cannot believe that Dr. Elliott would have the temerity to advise John McCain not to belong to a “white church” or Joseph Lieberman to a synagogue on grounds that by so doing they would be asserting personal identity in a divisive way.Dr. Elliott, please think a bit harder before you write for public consumption.Erik Schwarz

  • erik108

    Some of the comments on Dr. Elliott’s piece have been rather harsh, but I fear deservedly so. For a churchman with his resume, he has written some surprisingly nonsensical things. First is his claim that for President-elect Obama “being identified with any one denomination within one religion would be un-ecumenical.” Presidential worship choice has little or nothing to do with ecumenism, the field of church-to-church diplomacy and relationship-building. Furthermore, ecumenical activity is conducted almost entirely by representatives of particular denominations or churches (the Roman Catholic Church and some others reject description as a “denomination.”) For example, I sit on the Ecumenical Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. If, like Abraham Lincoln, the President-elect chooses not to identify with any particular church, he may or may not have made a canny political choice, but it will have nothing to do with ecumenism.Second, Dr. Elliott advocates for Mr. Obama to worship at the National Cathedral on grounds that it is “uniquely a national center of piety.” This thinking is not so much nonsensical as superficial. Dr. Elliott brushes aside the fact that the Cathedral is an Episcopal church, using Episcopal liturgies and run by Episcopal clergy under the direction of an Episcopal Dean with the supervision of the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. The Cathedral does from time to time use the rubric “A House of Prayer for All People,” but its meaning is still a work in progress. It does not mean, and it has never meant, that the Cathedral is willing to efface its thoroughly Episcopal identity. As a former member of the Cathedral’s program and ministry staff, I assert this with some confidence. The notion that the Cathedral is uniquely a place of national piety dishonors other sanctuaries of national import, such as the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Riverside Church, and various other churches, synagogues, masaajid, temples, gurudwaras etc.Third, finally, and most offensively, Dr. Elliott counsels Mr. Obama against joining a “black church.” Although not racist per se, this counsel is tantamount to pandering to racism. I cannot believe that Dr. Elliott would have the temerity to advise John McCain not to belong to a “white church” or Joseph Lieberman to a synagogue on grounds that by so doing they would be asserting personal identity in a divisive way.Dr. Elliott, please think a bit harder before you write for public consumption.Erik Schwarz

  • Willis E. Elliott

    No commenter has mentioned a fact pervasive of my entry, namely, that Obama, “in a way no previous president has been, will be a president for all the people….”

  • observer12

    “Advising a president where to worship would not have occurred to me. “On Faith” invited a swatch of opinions on the question, and I decided that being specific would stimulate thought – as indeed it has.”You had the option to reply that whether Obama attends services is an Obama family matter. In other words, it’s nobody’s business but the Obamas’. Leave the family alone.